And A with ] Dustin Diamond

[ Q

April 21, 2005|By Ann McArthur | Ann McArthur,Sun Staff

When Dustin Diamond calls from the latest stop on his stand-up comedy tour, the voice on the phone is not that of Samuel "Screech" Powers, the eternally geeky character he played for 11 years on the TV show Saved by the Bell and its offshoots. Diamond's voice is more scratchy than screechy as he has been awake for only 10 minutes and is recovering from last night's performance in a smoky club in Pittsburgh. Diamond, the 28-year-old former child star, began doing stand-up five days after Saved by the Bell: The New Class ended in 2000.

Since then, he has spent about 47 weeks a year doing stand-up comedy in clubs, at corporate functions and on college campuses. You can see him on reruns of Saved by the Bell in more than 100 countries, but tonight through Sunday, Diamond will be live at the Improv.

Where do you get the ideas for your act?

I write my material from everyday life. I talk about truth. I take potshots at myself, at Saved by the Bell and the cast members. The beef of my act is about relationships. With your boss, loved ones, friends and the government.

How do you handle hecklers?

I counter-heckle. There are always hecklers. I can tell jokes about someone for two hours if I have to. I have the microphone; they don't. They will never win.

Why are you so passionate about stand-up?

I made a bunch of money as a kid, so I do this because I love it. I have to do it. I feel at home when I'm on stage. It's the rawest form of entertainment; it's just you, the microphone and your performance. There are no special effects, back-up singers or cheerleaders. It's just me on stage. You live and die by your jokes.

Do audiences show up expecting to see "Screech"?

The opening of my show lets the audience know what they're in for, and it's not "Screech." Let's just say I have custom-tailored the opening to address this issue.

What would you like to be doing in your 30s?

I'm going to stick with stand-up. It's very therapeutic. Stand-up is really unique; you can work forever and you can work everywhere.

Are you OK with being remembered as "Screech"?

I want people to remember that I reached worldwide fame as "Screech." "Screech" was a major part of my career and life, and it was a launching pad for everything after it. That one character made me a household name around the world. Most former child stars have been arrested and can't get work -- while I'm selling out colleges. Now I have fans for my stand-up act, not for Saved by the Bell.

Dustin Diamond performs at the Improv at 8 tonight, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. tomorrow, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday and at 7 p.m. Sunday. The venue is at 6 Market Place in Power Plant Live. Tickets are $15-$17. Friday and Saturday shows are for ages 21 and up. Info: 410-727-8500 or www.baltimoreimprov.com.

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